A group of students in grades 5 through 11 from Coda Mountain Academy visited Fayetteville’s Wild Blue Adventure Company on Tuesday, in keeping with their weekly theme of studying flight and rocketry, according to Esther Morey, executive director of the ‘academy.
The previous week, K-5 summer campers at Coda Explore Kidz engaged in week-long bird and flight themed activities, and among their efforts was also a visit to Wild Blue Adventure.
“We have combined building large bird hotels and bird habitats, as well as studying their flight, but we have also studied flight with airplanes, drones and helicopters, so children in part of their week came to Wild Blue Adventure and had to do practical stuff,” Morey said of last week’s activities. “They got to get in the medical helicopter, watch the drones fly, and then they got to got to see the biplane land and take off and do aerobatics which was absolutely fabulous. They were wild with excitement.”
“We’re not studying birds this week, but we’re studying flight and adding rockets,” Morey said of the group of older students. They also plan to get involved in water and air rockets later this week, building “pretty complicated” models, she said.
A storm earlier this week prevented older students from seeing the biplane in action on Tuesday, but they may see it later this week.
“They’re absolutely amazed they’re having such a great time,” Morey said. “They like to do practical things” and “see and experience things for real”.
She also said that Bill Chouinard, who owns and operates Wild Blue Adventure with his wife, Ashley, provided a good deal of WWII history for the students, as well as details about the history of flight in general. . Chouinard also provided information on the 1943 Boeing-Stearman biplane in which aerobatic and non-acrobatic circuits are offered by the company over the New River Gorge. Aerial stunts on offer include barrel rolls, ties, hammerheads and S-turns.
Other activities on Tuesday included viewing a drone in action, visiting Air Evac Lifeteam 103 crew members, viewing a Cessna 150 Aerobat and, at the end of the tour, touring a locally housed Bede BD-5 kit plane and hearing some of the plane’s history.
“We are very moved by all of these people who volunteer to provide these children with such a rich experience,” said Morey.
Brandon Gehman, who is entering seventh grade at Oak Hill Middle School, said, “What we’re learning is about airplanes and flying.” He said the week so far had been “really enjoyable”.
“I learned how different things work in a helicopter,” he said of Tuesday’s activities. In addition, he and his comrades learned about the operation of the biplane. Gehman plans to pursue a career in an aviation-related field or in music.
The Chouinards have operated Wild Blue for three years. “I’ve been teaching from this airport for about five years and flying from this airport for 15 years,” he said. “We actually bought the business from good friends of ours, Chris and Cindy Kappler, who started the business 12 years ago.
“There’s been a Stearman flying in Fayetteville in a kind of Five Dollar Frank (Fayette Airport legend Frank K. Thomas) nostalgia for a long time now.”
“There are a couple of things that are really important to me,” Bill Chouinard said of interacting with Coda students, as well as the visiting audience. “First, I want people to have knowledge about the path to becoming a pilot. Basically, there are people you can ask in our community who can help you figure it out. It’s not a traditional path; it’s not becoming a teacher or a mechanic or a lawyer or something like that where the school system is very knowledgeable and can help you build a path to those careers If I want to be a pilot who do you go to if it’s is your quest, isn’t it? As children, I want them to know, first of all, that this airport has been around for a long time, that Frank taught a lot of people from this airport , that they can come here and that we can help them.
“Whether I’m doing the primary training or referring them somewhere, I’m more than happy to take time, adult or child, and help you figure out how you can achieve your dreams of flight.”
The second goal is to “just create excitement; excite these kids, for example. I was lucky enough to grow up around airplanes. My dad was a pilot. I have old logs of him literally when I was 4 years old, logged in as a co-pilot as Billy. And I cherish those things, and those memories are deeply etched in me, so I hope we leave a deep impression on those kids. Maybe they don’t want to be a pilot. I work for the Air Evac Lifeteam; I’ve been with them for over 10 years. I’m not a pilot there; I’m actually a flight nurse.”
Although this job is “aviation related”, there is “a whole other way to go, so show them that, hey, you don’t have to be a commercial pilot. I’m a pilot of commercial level to fly here at Wild Bleu. We have John (Woods) here with his Aerobat. He’s just an average guy who’s retired. You know what he likes to do in his spare time? He flies his plane .
“There are all these different ways to get up in the air. We like to show that to kids.”
Before CMA students and staff boarded their bus to leave the airport, Tony Mullins, president of the Fayette County Airport Association, briefed them on the story of a Bede BD-kit plane. 5 which is on site. The plane was designed in the 1970s and the plan is to display it on airport property near Wild Blue Mountain headquarters, Mullins explained.
Wild Blue Adventure Co. normally schedules flights five days a week for a six-month season, with a reduced volume of travel during the off-season. For more information, visit wildblueadventurecompany.com.
To learn more about Coda Mountain Academy, visit https://www.codamountain.com/.
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